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The Hidden Reality of Financial Abuse

March 06, 2024

In my years of helping women navigate through and beyond divorce, I've encountered a deeply troubling yet often invisible issue: financial abuse.

It's a stark reality that financial abuse occurs in 99% of domestic violence cases,* a statistic that both alarms and motivates me to shed light on this critical issue.

Through my work, I've come to realize that many of my clients have been living through various forms of financial abuse without even recognizing it. This lack of awareness is not uncommon, as the issue is not widely recognized or understood.  Financial abuse is a powerful and manipulative form of control that can leave survivors feeling trapped and powerless. It's not always obvious, and that's what makes it so deceptive. It can take many forms, from overt control of finances to subtler acts of manipulation. I've seen firsthand how these dynamics play out in the lives of the women I work with and here are a few ways financial abuse can occur:

  • Forced control is a form of abuse that involves one partner taking complete control over the other's access to financial resources, often without their consent.

Many clients come to me unaware that their partner's insistence on managing all the finances was a form of control, not care. Recognizing a pattern like this is the first step towards reclaiming financial independence.

  • Financial Intimidation is another common tactic and involves creating a situation of forced economic dependency, where the survivor has limited or no access to money, employment, or education.

This makes it incredibly difficult to leave the abusive relationship. This dependency is a deliberate strategy to keep the survivor under control, and breaking free from it requires courage and support.

  • Financial manipulation of the allocation of funds happens when abusers dictate how every penny is spent, often allocating an inadequate amount for the survivor's needs while justifying extravagant expenses for themselves.

This manipulation extends beyond mere budgeting to economic punishment and control.

  • Financial infidelity occurs when one partner lies about or hides financial transactions to maintain control or advantage over the other.

Discovering hidden debts, undisclosed accounts, or significant purchases can devastate trust and complicate the path to financial stability.

  • Finally, the abuse of joint assets involves one partner misusing shared resources or credit lines, often leaving the other partner with debt, damaged credit, and financial instability.

This abuse can have long-lasting effects, making it challenging to achieve economic independence or even secure housing and employment.

My goal in addressing these issues is not just to illuminate the dark corners of financial abuse but also to empower survivors with the knowledge and tools they need to rebuild their financial lives. Education is a powerful weapon against abuse. Understanding the signs of financial abuse and recognizing its impact are the first steps toward healing and recovery.

As a financial advisor, my role extends beyond managing assets, selling insurance and creating budgets; it's also about providing a safe space for clients to share what's going on in their lives, recognizing if abuse is something they’re going through or that they've endured, and helping them start the journey toward financial autonomy. We’ll work to untangle the complex web of financial abuse, restore confidence, and establish a foundation for a secure and independent future.

To anyone reading this who sees echoes of their own experiences in these words, know that you are not alone. Financial abuse is real, and it's more common than most people realize. But with awareness, support, and the right guidance, it is possible to reclaim your financial independence and turn the page on this chapter of your life.